Afghanistan's second largest city falls to Taliban

By Melissa Mahtani, Melissa Macaya, Veronica Rocha, Tara John and Aditi Sangal, CNN

Updated 8:00 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021
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2:30 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Pentagon: Most of the 3,000 troops headed to Afghanistan will arrive by Sunday

From CNN's Josiah Ryan

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby briefs the media in the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, DC, on August 13.
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby briefs the media in the Pentagon Briefing Room in Washington, DC, on August 13. (Pool)

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby provided further details today on the emergency deployment of US troops to Kabul, saying three battalions are en route to the region and most should arrive by the end of the weekend.

"I expect that by the end of the weekend, the bulk of the 3,000 that we talked about yesterday will be in place," he said today at a briefing. "Probably not all. But the bulk."

The group headed to Afghanistan is composed of of a Marine battalion that was already pre-staged in the region, another Marine infantry battalion from a Marine expeditionary unit and a US Army infantry battalion, he said.

Kirby went on to say the military operation in the area had already started.

"The operation has begun," he added. "The movement of forces to Kabul has begun."

1:47 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Switzerland will withdraw remaining staff from Kabul "as soon as possible"

From CNN's Lauren Kent

Switzerland will withdraw its three remaining staff in Kabul "as soon as possible" due to the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, a spokesperson for the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) told CNN on Friday.

"Due to the latest developments in Afghanistan, the FDFA has already reduced its Swiss staff on the ground by half. As a result, there are currently three Swiss employees left in Kabul. The FDFA will transfer these people as soon as possible to another country," the spokesperson said in an email.

The evacuation was announced earlier on Friday by Deputy Foreign Minister Livia Leu during a news conference in Bern, Switzerland. 

2:04 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Taliban takes control over Logar provincial and police headquarters, and capital Pul-e-Alam

From CNN's Tim Lister

The Taliban says the governor of the province of Logar "has joined the Mujahideen with all his staff."

It posted an image of the governor, Abdul Qayyum Rahimi, in the provincial capital, Pul-e-Alam, surrounded by Taliban fighters. 

A Taliban spokesperson said the provincial headquarters and police headquarters had been taken over while attacks on other government installations were continuing. Images from the city also showed prisoners leaving its main jail. 

The Afghan Ministry of Interior tweeted that at least seven Taliban insurgents had been killed in a series of airstrikes in central Logar province on Friday.

Logar is within 100 kilometers (62 miles) of the Afghan capital. Pul-e-Alam was the 17th provincial capital to fall to the Taliban. 

1:23 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

UN secretary general will make a statement on Afghanistan at 2:30 p.m. ET

From CNN’s Richard Roth

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to deliver an on-camera statement regarding the situation in Afghanistan at 2:30 p.m. ET Friday. 

Rosemary DiCarlo, the UN under-secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, expressed she’s “deeply concerned” over the situation in Afghanistan.

“Again, Again, civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence. One thing is clear from the country’s recent history: durable peace and development will not be achieved militarily. We're ready to contribute to a negotiated settlement,” she tweeted.
1:53 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Biden will be briefed regularly this weekend on Afghanistan

From CNN's Jeremy Diamond

President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 12.
President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on August 12. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)

President Biden will be briefed regularly this weekend by his national security team on the situation in Afghanistan while he is at Camp David, a White House official said. 

As CNN has already reported, Biden is having no second thoughts about his decision to withdraw from Afghanistan even as the Taliban have taken ground more rapidly than the US expected.

While the Biden administration was caught off guard by the speed of the Taliban advance, the official insisted that the presence of sufficient US troops at nearby bases to deploy to Afghanistan this week shows that the administration had planned for all contingencies — including a rapid Taliban advance.

The official also stands by the administration's rapid drawdown of forces this summer, noting that "military planners told us that speed equals safety."

The official said the administration stands by its view that "if we had combat forces in Afghanistan after May 1 without a plan to leave then we would be back in a shooting war with the Taliban."

12:15 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Norway will temporarily close embassy in Kabul

From CNN's James Frater in London and Niamh Kennedy in Paris

Norway will temporarily close its embassy in Kabul and evacuate staff from Afghanistan, including both posted diplomats and locally employed Afghans with immediate family who want to leave for Norway, according to a statement from Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide.

"The situation means that we are now initiating a temporary closure and evacuation of our embassy in Kabul. The responsibility for the safety of our employees weighs heavily in this situation. At the same time, we will continue our extensive efforts for Afghanistan," Eriksen Søreide said Friday, adding that Norway "will reopen the embassy in Kabul when the situation allows."

“We know that it is a demanding situation for Norwegian citizens staying in Afghanistan and that we will not be able to support them like usual, as long as the embassy is closed," Eriksen Søreide said in the statement. 

The move follows calls made by the British, German, French, Danish and US embassies this week urging citizens inside Afghanistan to leave the country immediately in light of threats to security.

Norway has encouraged its citizens to leave Afghanistan since Aug. 4 and has been advising against all travel to and all stays in Afghanistan since March 2018.

12:16 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Focus needs to be on safety of US citizens as "disaster" unfolds in Afghanistan, congressman says

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow, a former Army Ranger who served in Afghanistan, said that “clearly this is not going well” as the Taliban takes over half of the country’s provincial capitals.  

“There is a disaster unfolding on ground here that we have to make sure that we're getting our arms around,” he told CNN’s Dana Bash.

 Crow outlined three things he thinks need to happen in Afghanistan:

“The near-term mission over the next couple of days is to protect Americans and US citizens and to evacuate those that need to be evacuated as quickly as possible. The second mission is to evacuate Afghans and partners, and I'm calling on (the) Biden administration to conduct a speedy and robust and broad evacuation of our allies and our partners and democracy workers and others who are at great risk over the next couple of weeks. And then the third, longer-term mission is making sure that we don't see the reconstitution of ISIS and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan,” he said. 

Crow said that while special operations are fighting against the Taliban, “it is true overall that the rank-and-file is not holding in Afghanistan.”

He said there is a difference between arming, equipping, training and giving resources to an army and that actual army's will to fight. He also brought up the issue of identity. "Afghanistan is a largely tribal country; it always has been so,” he said. 

President Biden last month said that it’s “highly unlikely” that the Taliban would take over the whole country. 

“It is definitely not going well. And there are very tough questions that I'm going to ask and that others are going to ask about how we misread the signals and the intelligence here,” Crow said. 

But he reiterated that the immediate focus should be on protecting US citizens and allies in Afghanistan. 

Crow also said that his fellow veterans should be proud of themselves as the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks approaches. 

“You stood up and when your country needed you. You answered the call. Be proud of your service and what you did for our country. And we'll have the policy debates later,” he said.

Watch:

12:03 p.m. ET, August 13, 2021

NATO will maintain diplomatic presence in Kabul and "adjust as necessary," secretary general says

From CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali

The allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization met in the North Atlantic Council on Friday to continue to assess developments on the ground in Afghanistan, and it will continue to maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul, according to a statement from NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

"Our aim remains to support the Afghan government and security forces as much as possible. The security of our personnel is paramount. NATO will maintain our diplomatic presence in Kabul, and continue to adjust as necessary," Stoltenberg said in the statement, adding that NATO is in constant contact with the Afghan authorities and the rest of the international community.

"NATO Allies are deeply concerned about the high levels of violence caused by the Taliban’s offensive, including attacks on civilians, targeted killings, and reports of other serious human rights abuses. The Taliban need to understand that they will not be recognised by the international community if they take the country by force," Stoltenberg added. "We remain committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict."

11:47 a.m. ET, August 13, 2021

Denmark will evacuate embassy staff in Kabul as Taliban advance continues

From CNN's Niamh Kennedy

Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod addresses the press in Copenhagen on Friday, August 13, to inform that the Danish embassy in Kabul will evacuate its staff.
Denmark's Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod addresses the press in Copenhagen on Friday, August 13, to inform that the Danish embassy in Kabul will evacuate its staff. Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix/AFP/Getty Images

Denmark will evacuate staff from its embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as the Taliban's advance continues, according to a Friday news release from the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Danish government has "reached an agreement with parties in the Parliament regarding a new support initiative for locally employed Afghan staff with ties to Denmark," according to the ministry. 

The initiative will offer local embassy staff the opportunity to be evacuated to Denmark. Previous embassy staff and people who have worked for the Danish Defense Service during the past two years may also request to be evacuated. Through the initiative, locally employed staff may bring their spouse or partner, as well as children under the age of 18 with them to Denmark.

"The security situation in Afghanistan is serious. The Taliban are gaining terrain, and the situation is developing even faster than many people have feared. We have a collective responsibility to help the Afghans who are threatened because of their association with and contribution to Denmark’s engagement in Afghanistan," the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

This follows calls made by the UK, German, French, and US embassies earlier this week urging citizens inside Afghanistan to leave the country immediately in light of threats to security.

Denmark said its evacuations will take place "as soon as possible," albeit in a gradual manner "so that the embassy in Kabul can continue to function."

"The grounds for residency will be temporary, with a time restriction of two years without a possibility of extension," the news release said. "The right to a two-year residence permit in Denmark is conditional on the persons being evacuated are not deemed to constitute a danger to Denmark’s security".

Staff members who meet the specific and temporary grounds for residency will be allowed to apply for a residency permit under the Danish Aliens Act once safely arrived in the country.